Accommodations needed? Just not recognized?

It *looks* cool – till you try to concentrate and get some work done. Then it’s nothing short of hell. Look at the overhead lights and all those hard surfaces. Good grief. Nightmare.

I had a pretty good conversation with the last interviewer yesterday. They have only been in their present role for 6 months, and they are hiring like crazy to staff up.

So, either they will go for it and try to sign me up, or they will go with someone else who fits better.

One thing that may affect their choice, is that I brought up the types of workspaces they have. They asked what type I prefer to work in, and I said I prefer a space with walls high enough to block out ambient noise and distractions. The whole “open workspace” plan does NOT work for me. I found that out the hard way at my last job, and the main reason I am leaving my present job (sooner or later) is that they are moving — along with everyone else in the cosmos, apparently — to an open space / “bullpen” type arrangement, where there is constant noise and interruption — that’s the point, actually.

The very thought of moving to that makes me physically ill.

I’ve been having a lot of sensory issues, over the past couple of weeks. All of a sudden, I’m sensitive to things that I haven’t been bothered by, for some time. Rough wood grain is a tough one for me — especially wooden eating utensils. Like the wooden “spoon” that I got with a frozen dessert I got about a week ago. The feel of the wood grain on my tongue literally makes me gag. And the feel of biting down on wooden utensils also makes me gag.

I’ve been more susceptible to overwhelm, and when that happens, I get more literal in how I think and speak, and I start correcting my spouse over every little thing they get “wrong”. Like calling an SUV a “van” and not caring that they are two completely different things (in my mind, anyway). I’ve been much more prone to correct my spouse over every little thing, which makes them nuts and sets off their anxiety, because hearing someone constantly correct you can mess with your head.

Anyway, that’s been going on. And the ringing in my ears is making it hard to hear what people are saying to me. It’s also the ambient noise, that seems like it’s bumped up intensely, lately. I blame it on barometric pressure and the weather in general, when I talk to people. Telling them my TBI symptoms are acting up again, doesn’t create the impression I want to give people — the kind of impression that will get me jobs.

So, back to that conversation about workspaces. I said I prefer a cubicle with walls high enough to block out distractions and interruptions. I need to concentrate. I don’t think people understand just how intensely I concentrate, when I do. Or what that concentration produces. I recognize patterns. I find things that no one else sees. I’ve had to learn to concentrate with single-pointed focus, because of all my issues. And it’s stood me in good stead.

I wonder if that counted against me — not being flexible with the kinds of workspaces the company mandates. Nobody wants someone who’s a complainer or a prima dona. Nobody wants to deal with extra accommodations and folks who are in a position to sue. They can find any number of reasons to not hire you, if you look like you might be trouble. IĀ  know, because I used to be part of several teams that interviewed and hired folks, and there are a million different ways to disqualify someone who looks like they might be a litigation risk.

But it occurs to me that I may have been needing accommodations all along — an enclosed workspace where I can retreat from the stimuli and focus on my work. Years ago, I had an office with an overhead light I could turn off and blinds I could close. I had a desk lamp that provided the perfect amount of light. I could close the door and work in silence, and it was ideal.

Then they moved us to an open space floor plan, and it was hell. And I am pretty sure it did not help my recovery at all. Too many distractions. Too much input. It was so wrong. And I’m at the point now, where I know I need to never go there again, except for short periods of time. I don’t mind it for brief periods, but holy f*cking sh*t, it is miserable and stressful and prevents me from doing my absolute best work.

Which completely negates the whole point of going to work each day.

So, what I come to, now, is wondering if I actually needed special accommodations all along, but never realized it. And certainly never got them, except in rare and accidental circumstances. I know I need to actively screen out and disqualify those kinds of workplaces, and the kinds of companies that are in love with them. And it becomes more and more clear to me that I really need a remote job — either half-time or full-time. I need to work in ways that let me perform at my best, and keeping clear of open workspaces is the first step in that direction.

Anyway, whatever happens with this interview, it’s just a step in the direction I need to go. I’m going to start scoping out companies that offer more than 50% telecommute / remote positions, and see who’s good to work for. And I’m going to keep working on my own projects, so I can get a good foundation in place for my future. I’ve just turned 50, and I have a much better idea, now, what I need to do and how I need to work, than I did just 5 years ago. So, here’s to the next 50+ years of productive, happy, healthy life – with the right choices made for all the right reasons. And the wrong choices left behind in the dust.

Onward.

Time for a change

The Passage of Time
Time for a change

Well, the situation at work has reached critical mass, and I’m just not doing that well. It’s amazing, what a sudden increase in distraction will do to your productivity. The spaces they have us working in now have low walls between the desks, so your line of sight is never completely shielded from the constant movement around you.

I literally cannot work in that environment. What’s more, the “cubicles” they have us working in are completely open — aside from the two low dividers on two sides of the desks. All day long, I’m visually distracted by people walking by, talking, laughing, etc. And the space is very bright, so my light sensitivity issues come into play, too. I have been so stressed by the environment. I haven’t wanted to admit it — I want to just hang in there and make the best of it, but I have been so drained by focusing on keeping focused… trying to not disrupt the people around me, not knowing when I can talk or when I can’t, not even being able to talk on the phone regularly… and not being able to have any conversations with people without everyone overhearing — and jumping in. It’s really tough, and I haven’t been myself, since the move. I’m not sure I can ever be myself. Not anymore.

Long-term-wise, this is a recipe for disaster. It’s already going badly, after less than a month. I have to wonder what people are thinking about this whole arrangement. If anyone from an office space design firm is reading this, take note: Completely open office plans do not work for knowledge workers. They are distracting, intrusive, and counter-productive, and whatever you read in school or those expensive studies probably doesn’t apply to people who actually DO work, versus people who spend their time talking about doing work. Every time you’re interrupted from a task you’re doing,Ā  kit takes you at least 30-90 seconds to get back to what you were doing. If you’re interrupted 50 times a day (and we are), you’re spending about an hour out of every day trying to remember where you left off. This gives people a great reason to quit — especially high performers. And given that attrition costs a company $100,000 for each skilled worker they lose, it’s also extremely expensive.

If even 10 people leave because of this arrangement (and several have, already), my current employer will lose $1,000,000 — not to mention the critical talent that helps them meet their goals. And that’s probably not factoring in the impact that reductions in staff have on those who are left behind. I feel bad for the people I’m working with now, but I’ve got to go. It just makes no sense for me to stay. Ever since I started, it’s been feeling like my options are shrinking… reorganizations, people getting promoted, playing favorites… all the things that people do in organizations. It’s human nature, I suppose, but at this point, it feels like a dead-end.

So, it’s time to move on. Part of me is hesitant to leave after only a year and a half, but I am not looking forward to working for this parent corporation that summarily wiped out the culture of the established and profitable company I signed on with, never even acknowledging that it mattered.

It did matter. It does matter. And I’m not one to sit and marinate in the lousy environment they’ve created.

So, I’ve been sending out my resume, and already I have several interesting prospects. My resume is solid, and despite everything I’ve been through, I have managed to keep working, regardless. In that respect, I consider myself fortunate to have not been “institutionally” treated for TBI — through a hospital or with a lawyer or some other care professional. I find that people I encounter who have had that kind of help, sometimes get stuck in a mindset that makes them think less of themselves. They get comfortable in the role of having someone tend to them, and then they allow that to redefine who they are. Certainly, there are plenty of people who really need help from professionals. I’m not debating that. The point is, in my case, for my own self, in a way I’m glad I didn’t, because I know that I’m the sort of person who would fall into that mindset.

I do know myself well, in that respect.

So, it’s onward and upward. I need to stay focused and positive and look to the future, and look for opportunities. I also need to stay steady at work, get plenty of rest, so I do not finish my time at this job on a bad note. I know how susceptible I am to fatigue and stress, and I know what it’s done to me in the past. Changing jobs is one of the biggest stresses you can have, and they’ve just put us through a massive job change at work… plus, now I’m looking, so it’s a double-whammy. And I can’t let that throw me off and damage my chances of getting a better job. I have to really watch my tone, watch how I conduct myself, watch my behaviors and sentiments. It’s no good going to job interviews all freaked out over things that are going on. It puts me in a bad light, and that can’t happen. There’s nothing like showing up at a job interview all pissed off šŸ˜‰

So, I’ve got to stay positive, however I can. In spite of these terrible conditions, I need to be open to the positive aspects of my current situation and make the most of them, while realizing that this is not where I want to be over the long-term. Having a job already gives me some “breathing room” to do my search. I do want to move on, but I don’t have to rush out. And the company definitely does not want to see me go.

Still, I must. I had intended from the start to have this be a long-term deal — to retire with the company, as the HR guy said. Sadly, that HR guy is no longer with the company — he got absorbed into the parent corporation and is no longer part of my organization. I don’t think anyone is part of that old organization, actually. The company we used to work for… now it’s just a product offering, part of a larger “portfolio of industry solutions”. The company has disappeared.

And I’m not far behind.